2023 sees a quartet of Cork managers eager to bring silverware back to Leeside.
Little doubt that Pat Ryan, John Cleary, Shane Ronayne and Matthew Twomey are looking forward to sitting down with their respective families for Christmas dinner.
All four will have little time to bask in the glow of the Christmas tree lights however, as another GAA, Camogie and LGFA inter-county season thunders into view.
Cork senior football manager John Cleary is already preparing for a McGrath Cup season-opener against Kerry in the first week of January.
In reality, that game along with subsequent McGrath Cup ties and challenge games will primarily be used to blood newcomers and work off any lingering Christmas and New Year rust.
Yet, Cork football supporters will be looking for whatever positive signs they can get their hands on during the first months of the New Year.
Never before will Cork’s National League campaign have been so important. A revamped 2023 All-Ireland football championship structure means John Cleary faces a challenge none of his predecessors previously encountered.
A round-robin championship for next year’s Sam Maguire cup will be made up of sixteen counties split into four groups of four. Those All-Ireland SFC groups will contain eight provincial finalists and the next eight highest ranked counties based on their 2023 National League finishes.
Cleary’s side will contest a Division 2 bursting with talent. Cork will face Clare, Limerick, Derry, Louth, Kildare, Meath and Dublin before preparing for a Munster SFC quarter-final against the Banner and potential semi-final against Limerick.
Whatever about the Cork senior footballer’s National League campaign, overcoming Clare and Limerick to reach a Munster SFC final is a minimum but achievable goal.
Shane Ronayne is back in charge of the Cork senior ladies footballers for another season.
The multi-All-Ireland club-winning Mourneabbey manager has spent the winter months overseeing a period of transition with experienced figureheads such as Martina O’Brien and Eimear Scally stepping away from the inter-county fold.
Additional players may yet decide to opt-out of the Cork senior setup for 2023. Wisely, Ronayne and his management team have spent recent winter months running the rule over a large number of fringe players as well as recent graduates from Cork’s minor ranks.
Cork begin with a tricky away tie away to the team that ended their 2022 All-Ireland hopes, Mayo. Following that opener, Waterford, Dublin, Galway, Donegal, Kerry and reigning All-Ireland champions Meath are set to test the Rebels’ credentials ahead of Munster and All-Ireland campaigns.
It is difficult to predict what to expect, considering Cork will likely field a much-changed line-up in 2023. An improvement on last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final exit coupled with a productive showing in the National League is the least Shane Ronayne and Cork LGFA supporters will demand.
Matthew Twomey’s Cork senior camogie side 2022 campaign ended in tears at Croke Park. Kilkenny ended Cork’s All-Ireland hopes at the final hurdle but there is every reason for Twomey and his senior panel to look forward with optimism to 2023.
A settled squad coming off the back of an entertaining Cork senior club camogie championship, and thriving inter-county intermediate and underage setups, means the Rebels are in good health heading into the New Year.
Cork lost to Galway in the 2022 National League decider last April. Matthew Twomey will be eager for a similarly positive run and some silverware this coming year. The key to Cork’s aspirations will be consistency and playing the full 70 minutes in every outing. Not insurmountable tasks for an experienced Cork Camogie setup.
Finishing games as strongly as they start them coupled with an ability to hang in against the likes of Limerick and Kilkenny gives the Rebels a fighting chance of improving on 2022’s gut-wrenching quarter-final loss to Galway.
Ryan won’t have much time between the conclusion of Cork’s National League campaign, which begins with Group A clashes against Limerick, Wexford, Galway, Westmeath and Clare before the Munster SHC starts.
There are enough quality attackers and defenders to deliver improved results for the Cork senior hurlers and their new manager in 2023. Delivering consistent National Hurling League performances is a must in a season Cork will be expected to improve on last year’s showing.